Review: Meet the Buck 110, an American legend
Few knives have served as many American outdoorsmen and women as the Buck 110.
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In the American West, hunters, anglers, hikers, and campers all rely on a tough, reliable blade for everything from slicing salami and opening boxes to creating kindling, and cleaning and field dressing wild game. The same goes for ranchers, cowboys, and cowgirls from Texas to Montana and Kansas to California. Naturally, few people want to pay top dollar for a fancy folding knife when a proven design gets the job done for a fraction of the cost. This is why Buck Knives has earned the reputation and customer base it has west of the Mississippi.
Growing up in Colorado, I quickly learned the value of a good knife, and when I was old enough to buy one of my own, I quickly discovered that the Buck 110 Folding Hunter had a strong reputation as a tough, reliable knife, much like the Chevy C/Ks and Ford F-Series of the 1990s. I saw the 110 everywhere, and when I finally mustered up the courage to ask someone about it, he swore it was the best knife on the market. The brass bolsters and wood grip scales gave the 110 a classic look that it originally sported during its debut in 1963, and I was quickly enamored with it.
Once I turned 13, I begged my father to take me to the local Gart Sports so I could pick up my very own Buck 110. When I saw the price tag, something I hadn’t thought to look at ahead of time, I realized I would need to come back when my piggy bank was a bit heavier. After a few odd jobs, I finally had the cash, and I swapped my life savings (a whopping $35) for the knife of my dreams. A brand new Buck 110 shouldn’t wipe you out as it did me (unless you just sprung $60,000 for a new Hellcat, in which case, you’re on your own), and I’m here to tell you why this classic knife may just be the next blade to add to your collection.
I recall little about the packaging containing my shiny new Buck 110. The knife came with a stained black leather sheath with “Buck Knives” branded into the top flap above the snap closure (all the packaging I cared about), and boy, was it heavy. While mine weighs in at around 6.5 ounces, the modern 110 tips the scale at 7.2 ounces.
Today’s 110 features brass hardware (bolsters and pins), a stainless steel back lock mechanism with matching pin, a 3.75-inch 420HC stainless steel blade, and ebony wood scales. With the blade deployed, the 110 measures roughly 8.5 inches long, and the handle provides plenty of material for getting a solid grip.
The original 110 featured ebony grip scales, but due to the increasing scarcity of legally-sourced ebony, Buck transitioned to using resin-treated wood scales in the 1990s. In 2019, Buck reintroduced ebony scales after partnering with Taylor Guitars, originator of The Ebony Project. This project provides Taylor and Buck access to legally- and sustainably-sourced ebony, and while this means that my knife lacks the ebony scales, new buyers will be in for a treat.
Over the past 15 plus years, my Buck 110 has been a prized possession, and during that time, it has earned its fair share of bumps and bruises, much of that abuse earned courtesy of my youthful ignorance. Still, those dings and dents are minimal, and after all this time, the fit and finish are still quite admirable.
How we tested the Buck 110
After years as an EDC knife, my Buck 110 has accompanied me on various fishing, hunting, and hiking trips. At first, I babied this knife, not wanting to mar its attractive finish, so I relegated it to opening boxes and other easy chores. (I’m a sucker for nicely-finished wood. I’ve even considered sticking a wooden stock on an AR-15, although right now, that’s mostly just a fantasy.) With time, however, I realized the need to actually deploy the 110 in its intended environment. While I never worked it excessively hard, it ended up cleaning a fair share of brown trout (and maybe a rainbow once or twice), keeping its edge and performing nicely. During down times, it also ended up whittling away various sticks and dead tree branches, stripping bark and sharpening wooden stakes. Despite this variety, the only real care it ever required was cleaning and the occasional sharpening session.
Over the years, it picked up its fair share of minor dents and scratches. Predictably, most of these marks appear on the body, although the blade has a few scratches of note. Buck is known for their Forever Warranty and their free sharpening service, but I have never taken advantage of either. Thankfully, the knife has held up well, and while it certainly has needed a few sharpenings here and there, I’ve always been too cheap to spring for the necessary shipping cost.
What we like about the Buck 110
Officially, the Buck 110 is named the “110 Folding Hunter,” and it certainly lives up to the name: When used to clean fish or field dress moderately-sized game, this knife feels right at home. It is tough and durable, and provides buyers with a great balance of both price and performance. The clip point design provides an ideal blade shape for getting into tight spaces and, when properly sharpened, should make quick work of skinning and cleaning jobs.
The 110 Folding Hunter also comes with some much-appreciated extras. Buck Knives’ Forever Warranty guarantees replacement should your blade ever break due to poor quality materials or subpar workmanship. Buck offers a free sharpening service for all of its knives, a nice feature for anyone who hates sharpening and is willing to part with their knife for a time. The only loss to you is the time and shipping cost.
If customization is your thing, then consider picking up a Buck 110. This classic blade comes with optional finger grooves bored into the handle, although they will up the price a decent amount. You also can order a personalized 110 straight from Buck with your name or message laser-engraved into the blade as well as the blade, grip scales, and sheath of your choice. This means a knife equipped with high-quality S30V steel, developed by Crucible in partnership with Chris Reeves, is certainly without your grasp. The modern line of classic 110s also includes a drop point variant, a knife equipped with G-10 grip scales, and a few other variants worth your while.
Due to its long production run, the 110 has plenty of aftermarket support, a somewhat surprising advantage to ownership. Mostly, you can find unique or custom sheaths usually made with high-quality leather and oriented to fit your preferred carry angle. (Seriously, Amazon and Etsy are loaded with 110 sheath offerings.) You can also pick up screw-on thumb studs if that floats your boat. There is even a cottage industry dedicated to creating custom and one-of-a-kind upgrades to this classic knife. (The Finney Knives WWII Patriot may just be my new favorite take on the 110.)
Best of all, I love this knife’s combination of aesthetics and functionality. I’m a sucker for knives with natural materials, especially well-finished wooden scales, and the Buck 110 certainly falls into the category for me. Like the Marlin 336 line of lever action rifles, this knife is both old school and “modern”, combining simplistic, reliable engineering with beautiful materials that have been shaped and finished with a craftsman’s caress.
What we don’t like about the Buck 110
The biggest downside to the Buck 110 is easily its unsuitability for pocket carry. This knife wasn’t really designed for this purpose and both its weight and size prove that. At 7.2 ounces and 4.875 inches long when closed, this hunting knife was designed for sheath or pack carry first and foremost.
While this blade certainly could be used for survival duty in a pinch, it tends to lag behind other blades when used for woodworking activities, at least when equipped with the straight-edged, 420HC clip point blade. The 420HC steel blade does tend to dull relatively quickly, especially when used for activities other than hunting or fishing. After field dressing a whitetail with the entry-level blade, make sure to give your 110 a nice going-over with a whetstone or diamond sharpener, like the Smith’s DRET. While Buck has perfected the heat treating process for 420HC steel, it still is a low-cost steel with the noteworthy drawback of limited edge retention. Upgrading to an S30V-equipped 100 Folding Hunter is an option, but your ticket price will go up significantly.
At the end of the day, the Buck 110 is a solid knife for hunters and anglers, farmers and ranchers. The clip point, straight-edged 420HC stainless steel provides plenty of blade durability while still being relatively easy to sharpen. If that isn’t enough for you, then you can always customize your 110 with a blade steel, shape, and edge of your choice, although it will cost you a good bit extra. If you prefer the semi-custom route, Buck also offers a handful of preconfigured 110s with commonly-requested upgrades, such as G-10 grips, a drop point blade shape, or a high-end S30V steel blade. All of these options make the modern 110 an excellent choice for a variety of applications.
While the 110 Folding Hunter’s heft and size removed it from my EDC many years ago, it is still a constant companion on virtually every one of my outdoor adventures. I love the aesthetics and the sense of (modern) history — the number of individuals who have relied on it since its debut in the 60s certainly adds to that mystique.
FAQs about the Buck 110
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does the Buck 110 cost?
A. As of this writing, the MSRP for a classic wood and brass Buck 110 is $55. That said, you can find the same knife for as low as $35 from some big box retailers.
Q. Is the Buck 110 made in the USA?
A. Absolutely! The classic Buck 110 is made in Post Falls, Idaho, furthering its reputation as an American legend.
Q. Why does Buck use 420HC steel?
A. Part of the 400 series of steel, 420HC steel is inexpensive, reasonably tough, and handily resists stains and corrosion, making it a popular choice among knife manufacturers. You may have heard the 420HC is a cheap steel that won’t hold an edge, and in almost every case, the reports are true. That said, Buck has perfected its (proprietary) heat treating process to overcome this weakness. Whether this treatment relies on pure dragon fire, molten magma, or just straight up magic, the company won’t say, but whatever the case is, Buck has figured out how to transform a usually low-quality steel into a solid mid-tier performer, passing the savings on to you.
Q. Are Buck knives good quality?
A. For what they are, Buck knives are very good quality, combining solid performance with an affordable price tag. Like the Ford Rangers of old, Buck’s entry level knives are tough, affordable, require limited upkeep, and will get the job done when the chips are down. Of course, Buck does offer its equivalents to the Ford Raptor, but like with said pickup, the price tends to climb like an F-15 in full afterburner, negating one of Buck’s biggest draws: affordability.
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For over 25 years, Brian Smyth has been neighbors with the Air Force Academy and the U.S. Army’s Ivy Division. He loves the challenge of crafting words and has written for The Drive, Car Bibles, and other publications. Nothing gets him going quite like the roar of dual Pratt & Whitneys overhead, the smell of cordite, and the stories of the Greatest Generation.